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Farmer serves at sea during Korean conflict

Farmer serves at sea during Korean conflict

Paul Nieland

Paul Nieland inspects an ear of corn that will soon be harvested from the first farm he owned. Nieland, 91, retired from farming years ago. He served in the Navy during the Korean War.

LAKE VIEW, Iowa — The sounds of war were only quiet a short time before the United States found itself embroiled in another war caused by the North Korean invasion of South Korea in 1950.

Paul Nieland remembered World War II. He was 15 when it ended, and his brother Arthur was killed in 1944.

Nieland, 91, graduated from high school in 1948. He spent three years on the family farm before enlisting on his 21st birthday.

“I didn’t want to be in the Army,” he says. “So I enlisted in the Navy on my birthday — Jan. 9, 1951.”

After his service was over, Nieland returned to his parents’ farm near Breda, Iowa. He worked with his father for two years before starting out on his own.

During his tour of duty, he was connected to two ships — the USS Bayonne, primarily used for weather purposes, and the USS Hamul, a ship Nieland says was used to repair destroyers.

“On the Bayonne, we had 320 men and our home port was in Yokosuka, Japan,” he says. “We would send up balloons to get weather readings.”

After 13 months, Nieland was sent home for leave before arriving on the Hamul at its home port in Long Beach, California.

“We pretty much just fixed destroyers,” he says. “They would come to the port in fours, and we tied them up to our ship so we could work on them.”

Nieland says he was fortunate to spend the war in relative safety.

“We did fire our guns in Japan, but I was very safe,” he says. “Others were not.”

He was discharged in 1954 and returned to the family farm in west central Iowa. Not long after that, he met Connie Leiting at a New Year’s Eve party. The two eventually married on August 31, 1955.

Paul and Connie were married 65 years before she passed away just over four months ago. They had five children, all of whom worked on the farm.

The Nielands rented the family’s 150-acre farm and eventually began buying their own ground.

“My first farm, I didn’t talk to the banker before I paid $551 an acre for it,” he says with a chuckle. “After the sale, the banker told me to come in and he’d take care of us. That banker helped us out more than once.”

On another occasion, the banker told Nieland he would go in 50-50 with him on the purchase of some land. After the sale, the banker said he thought Paul should own the ground on his own.

“He says ‘Why don’t you take it?’ and I told him I didn’t have that kind of money,” Nieland says. “He kind of smiles and said, ‘My wife has some special money, so she’ll loan some to you.’”

Connie worked as a nurse before concentrating on the farm and growing their family. Their son Brian eventually took over the day-to-day operation of the farm, although Paul still helps if he can.

Today, Paul’s grandson, Aaron Nieland, rents his ground.

“All those guys work pretty hard,” he says. “I’m happy to see the land staying in our family.”

Nieland says he is proud of his service. He and Connie used to attend reunions of crew members of the ships.

“We had good people on those ships,” he says. “I’m proud of what we did back then.”

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